The Good:

The Denon AVR-S900W  is easy to setup and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth which make streaming music to the S900W a cinch. The excellent sound quality of the unit puts it on par with the Sony STR-DN1050 which we also liked.

 

The Bad:

Doesn’t support Dolby’s latest surround format Atmos. Some sound distortion at extremely high levels.


Summary:

The Denon S900W offers great value at it’s current price point. It has an excellent array of features and is easy to setup thanks to great labeling and color coding. The included paper tripod is a great tool since few people have the necessary equipment needed to properly calibrate a home theater system. On top of this the S900W has top tier sound quality.

Denon AVR-S900W Review

Denon AVR S900W

The S900W, like most receivers, is just a big black box. The front panel does have a slight curve which manages to soften the exterior of the unit. The face of the unit is adorned with the usual cache of buttons for source select etc. There is a conveniently placed USB port on the front which works perfectly for attaching an Apple device. The user interface of the Denon S900W is fairly basic. Once you go through the initial calibration the on screen interface consists of mainly just plain black and white text. It’s not as pretty as the GUI on some of Sony’s A/V receivers this year, but it’s easy to navigate and gets you to where you need to go.

 

Denon also offers a remote app, that’s a free download on an Android or iOS device. The remote app basically allows you to control the major functions of the receiver. Other manufacturers also offer similar apps and thus far we haven’t been overly impressed with any of them. It’s a nice option to have however,  the simplified remote of the Denon AVR S900W works just as well.

Denon AVR-S900W Remote

 

Connectivity & Features

If you need lots of HDMI inputs then the S900W has you covered because it comes equipped with eight HDMI 2.0 connections which support 4K Ultra HD pass through and upscaling. It’s unusual to find a unit at this price point that includes this many HDMI inputs, but hey we’re not complaining. We’ll take as many as we can get. Looking further at the back panel you’ll notice the Denon AVR-S900W gives you a healthy amount of analog connectivity options and a few digital hook-ups as well.

 

The Denon AVR S900W also includes built-in WiFi, bluetooth and is AirPlay compatible to facilitate wireless streaming. All three were easy to setup and use. However, playing audio via bluetooth resulted in a noticeable degradation in sound quality of the source material. This is more of a shortcoming of the bluetooth technology than it is the Denon S900W as we’ve noticed this with nearly every A/V receiver we’ve listened to. The 900 also offers a pretty good array of internet music streaming options which include Pandora, Spotify Connect and SiriusXM.

 

The S900W supports the normal accoutrement of HD audio codecs including DTS HD Master, DTS ES, DTS 96/24, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital EX and ProLogic II. However, the one format missing from this list is Dolby’s new Atmos. Atmos isn’t a major omission though since it’s still not a proven technology.  For music the Denon S900W supports MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC HD 192/24, and Gapless playback.

 

 

Denon AVR-S900W Setup

Denon AVR S900W Rear

Before we get into the calibration, we want to point out something that struck us as being incredibly convenient about the Denon S900W. Most receivers stack the positive and negative terminals on-top of one another. If you’re lucky enough to be blessed with slender lithe fingers you probably can easily maneuver the wires into the proper terminals. Unfortunately, we have not been blessed with such digits and trying to connect bare wire to the terminals can be somewhat daunting. Thankfully, on the Denon AVR-S900W, the speaker terminals are lined up in a single row on the back of the receiver making each terminal easy to access. (Our fingers thank you Denon!)

 

On top of this, each terminal is clearly indicated and color coded. In addition, Denon includes color labels that you can attach to each of your speaker cables to make identification simpler. Much of this is the result of the new initiative Denon undertook last year with it’s E-series of receivers to simplify the entire setup process. This endeavor has carried over into this years crop of A/V offerings thankfully.

 

Calibration

The S900W uses Audyssey’s Bronze calibration system which asks you to place the provided microphone in six locations in your listening area. Denon includes a neat little paper tri-pod with the S900W that they instruct you to set the microphone on top of. The paper tri-pod is a unique little add-on that I hope other A/V receiver manufacturers pick-up on. The tri-pod itself requires no tools and only takes a few minutes to put together. It also has several height adjustment. Once you have the mic setup the Denon AVR-S900W then sends a series of test tones through your attached speakers and adjusts the crossover frequency, speaker distances and levels.

 

As with most calibration systems there were a few things that still needed tweaked afterwards. The s900w set our fronts and surrounds to large however, few speakers are able to dig as deep as a good subwoofer. That being said, we prefer to hand over the majority of the low frequencies duties to our sub so it can do what it was built for. Setting all of our speakers to small and the crossover to a THX recommended 80Hz provided better overall bass response and a much more enjoyable listening experience.

 

Performance

The specs on the 7.2 channel Denon S900W claim that it has a maximum power output of 185 watts per channel. However, if you look at the specs, this is with the 900 only pushing one channel. Real world power output will be considerably less. This being said, in our listening test the 900 can get fairly loud before you start to hear distortion.

 

On the performance side of things the Denon AVR S900W excels. It has a remarkably clean powerful sound. We decided to try it with the Amazing Spider-man 2 blu-ray and it didn’t disappoint. Dialogue was crisp clean and accurate. The final section of the movie where Spider-man & Electro do battle in the power plant gave the S900W the opportunity to prove what it could do. This scene in particular is very kinetic, not only visually, but sonically as well. The special effects bounced from channel to channel creating a very enveloping sound field. The S900W proved it was up to the task.

 

On the downside when we really cranked the Denon AVR S900W we did start to hear some distortion. However, in order to achieve this we were forced to raise the volume to an unrealistic level. In fact, at the levels we had it at you would run the risk of blowing out one of your speakers.

 

Conclusion

The Denon AVR S900W is probably on par with the Sony STR-DN1050 in terms of sound quality. The Denon S900W does distort at very high volumes, but it’s unrealistic for anyone to play it that loud. It’s combination of features and sound quality make it the total package.


Where to Buy:

See Price on Amazon


 

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